Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

On being the non-bio mom or a great big bundle of worry


Sugar here.  Bionic and I have been thinking that I should write a post or two about how it feels to be ‘the other mom.’  I will attempt to do this, although as I sit down to start writing I feel a massive wave of confusion threatening to overwhelm me.  So bear with me.

First, I have a confession to make.  Last year, and every year preceding last year, I was not that interested in having a kid.  Not just not interested in having one gestate inside my body, but not interested in being a parent.  I thought that it would be a lot of work, would take me away from things I really wanted to be doing, and would not have a lot of pay off.  I thought people thought I was unnatural for feeling this way, but since I had already delivered society the big fuck you of saying, hey, I’m a lesbian, the unnaturalness of being non-maternal paled in comparison.

I’d always known that Bionic liked kids and wanted some someday.  Early on in our relationship (say 10 or 12 years ago) I hoped she might grow out this unfathomable desire.  She didn’t.  I think she hoped I would change my mind too, and to a certain extent I did.  I went from I-hate-children-they-are-loud-and-annoying-and-turn-your-mind-into-a-pile-of-dribble to that-might-not-be-so-bad-if-I-manage-to-fulfill-my-career-goals-first.

Unfortunately, I went on not fulfilling my career goals for quite some time.   I could see that Bionic had a point when she said we were going to cross into the time in our lives where conceiving a child would be difficult just because we waited too long.  (This was before we knew about Bionic’s infertility issues.) I felt that I had a choice between insisting on a negation that would make Bionic feel empty and sad, possibly for the rest of her life, and jumping into THE GREAT UNKNOWN.

As the non-bio mom, I had another layer of fears about my fears.  I thought that none of what I was experiencing was supposed to be happening.  If I were a better person — more successful, more maternal, more normal in some way — I just wouldn’t be feeling any conflict and we would be dancing to the happy flower-filled wonderland of parenthood without a care. Or at the very least I would be having the conflict everyone seemed to expect me to have — i.e. conflict over being the one not having the baby.  In this way approaching the decision to be a non-biological mom is different from approaching the decision to be a father.  Obviously no one wonders why fathers aren’t the ones gestating the baby. But also, men are expected and allowed to feel and say the things I felt — ‘Really, kids?  Do I have to like them?  What about money, do we have enough?  Will I still have time for my career?’ They don’t have to be afraid that if people find out what they are thinking they will shout MONSTER!

As is obvious from all the other posts on this blog, we decided on the great unknown rather than the great negation. As we began to try to get Bionic pregnant, I still felt ambivalent, but since we had chosen a path a lot of people began to ask us a lot of questions. I felt that I needed to project the idea that I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I’M DOING AND EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE (why do you ask?) My parents were not very pleased with the pregnancy concept, and I spent a lot of emotional energy deflecting their worries. My best friend also was not helpful. She is of the personality type that likes to evaluate and judge and plan every little thing in life with the goal of eliminating all ambivalence before going forward. When I told her we were trying to get Bionic pregnant, she said, “but how do you feel about that?” as though I hadn’t given my own desires any thought. I couldn’t say to her, “I don’t know.” So I said, “Wonderful! I feel great!”

I felt very alone.

As you all know, it took some doing to get Bionic pregnant. After what seemed an eternity of seeing Bionic feeling sad or ill, it did happen. I remember standing there looking at the single blinking pixel on the ultrasound screen thinking, well, this is it. For real. My God.

Then I started to have another whole category of fears. What if that tiny blinking bit of life doesn’t like me? I wondered. After all, I’m not actually related to it. What if, worse, I don’t like it? What if our life becomes a living hell? What if I lose my job and we have to move into Bionic’s parents’ basement? Etc. I sat with most of these questions for most of Bionic’s pregnancy, in a kind of you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it sort of way.

We rearranged the apartment, put together a crib, stored boxes of donated diapers and clothes. Bionic changed shape. None of this felt very much like it was leading anywhere I could imagine. I don’t think it started to seem totally real until the second day of Bionic’s torrential bleeding, the day before the bean was born. I was so upset about Bionic’s health that when I opened the freezer to get (what? I don’t remember) and a frozen burrito fell out on my foot I picked it up and hurled it across the room in a fit of pique. Then I thought, wow, I need to stop throwing frozen food. My wife is having a baby. Now.

As Bionic went into active labor I was totally freaked out by the amount of pain that she was in, (that might deserve its own post some time) but I did manage to stop hurling objects and help her get to the hospital. Once she was ensconced in the labor room, had gotten the epidural, and was calmer, I started to feel excited. It was happening! Now! Someone was going to hand me an infant! Soon! There was also so much numbness from having gotten not that much sleep and not that much food and having survived the cab ride that I stopped worrying for a while and was just happy that Bionic seemed comfortable.

Then there were hours of pushing, which for me felt like a sort of weird college exam all-nighter I was pulling. (I may write about this later too, but for now it’s too much.) Then finally, after Bionic’s doctor was a total horror and eleventy-billion people yelled at Bionic for not having contractions/not pushing/being in pain (again, a post on this later), the bean arrived.

And now this part is going to sound completely fake and sappy, and while it may in fact be sappy, I swear to you that it is not fake. All of my fears dissolved. I knew I loved this creature. I looked at the him and thought, I have to connect myself to you. “I want to give him my dad’s name. He has to have my dad’s name,” I called over to Bionic, who was getting stitched back up. She looked exhausted. “Ok,” she said, smiling, “but can we talk about it in the morning?”

kissing graham

To be continued in a series on non-bio-mom stuff. I hope I’m not boring the pants off of you.

Also, the above watercolor is from my other, arty, blog:  jess-a-sketch

20 thoughts on “On being the non-bio mom or a great big bundle of worry

  1. Not at all! I’m still totally hanging on the edge of my seat for the one-vagina post, but I also love hearing about your part in this journey–and I’m going to make my wife read it, too, because she’s on the same boat you took to get here, and I think it would do her good to meet some other passengers.

  2. Love it – not boring at all. Thanks for writing this. I’d be interested in hearing all the maybe posts you mentioned about labor and birth from your perspective.

  3. nonsense, i loved reading this post! if i can work up the energy, i might do a similar post on the non-bio experience. thanks for sharing this with us!

  4. Not boring at all…and, you know what..that last part doesn’t sound fake or sappy. It sounds wonderful.

    BTW, that watercolor is stunning.

  5. Not boring at all. I love to hear these thoughts. ❤

  6. not boring at all. my partner was also uncertain, not because she didn’t want a child, but because she was afraid the bunny wouldn’t feel like her child. she had a sappy moment similar to yours when he was born and all the fears simply melted away.

  7. Well told. Thank you for your honesty. Lovely painting – saves me asking for one. More, please?

  8. I identify with this so much, even the parts about you not being interested in or wanting a kid.

  9. I’m so glad you posted this (and because I might forget, what an absolutely lovely watercolor. I adore that little face.), partly just because I’m curious about your perspective, and partly because there are things I relate to, and partly because, coming here from the World of Infertility, it’s just so nice to hear that there really are women who are not desperate for babies. I mean, unlike you, once I met my husband, I wanted kids in a general way, but I never felt maternal and never liked other people’s babies, and wasn’t sure I’d like my own. I feel like the dissolving of fears (even if mine were different fears) and that sense of knowing you loved the weird little animal happened for me, too. Anyway, totally fascinating, and I’m so glad it turned out that your life is not a living hell.

  10. Not boring. Wonderful, and real and it made me cry there at the end. And the watercolor? Lovely.

  11. Not boring. Beautiful and heartfelt. I appreciate hearing things from a non bio mom perspective since I am the bio mom in my family.

    I have the print you made for me hanging in one of my bedrooms now. I’m looking forward to my daughter being old enough to discuss it with me. I can’t wait to tell her the story of how she came to be, and that picture will help illustrate it for her in ways I never could with words. I love your work and am happy to have the link to your other blog.

  12. You know I love a good non-bio mom post! That feeling of “I have to connect myself to you” — yes — that’s exactly it.

  13. Not a bit boring. I loved this post and look forward to more from Sugar.

  14. thanks everyone!

  15. Loved this so much I made H read it. Given as I’m planning on him being the non-bio mum anyway (he’s washing up as I speak, and he does all the ironing. Gender roles be buggered).

    H loved it too.

    The watercolor is lovely. Have just spent a happy half-hour admiring the rest of the art on the arty blog. Thank you!

    Looking forward to the rest of the series very much indeed. (Tell Bionic we need to know what happened to the vagina, before we all expire from unsatiated frantic curiousity).

  16. I actually have a friend (female, married to a guy) who had her first kid not from any real desire, but from a desire to not be 60 and still have kids in college. She describes the same feeling: when she finally saw the baby in person, she thought it was the best, cutest baby ever, but until then, a great indifference prevailed. I wonder if it’s relatively common, but women are afraid to admit to indifference. Because it’s unfeminine.

  17. I think the teeny baby stage is just weird, for both mothers, but especially for the non bio mother. I mean parenthood is still a total shock and if there is bf going on, it’s all so focused on the person with the milk. IME things fall into place as soon as there is a strong and obvious (to third parties) bond between child and nbm. And even more so once the kid tells all the world about his mothers and usually has so many gestures and phrases acquired from the nbm that even the parents end up forgetting who did the actual birth thing. Not that there aren’t tensions, but it just becomes more straightforward I think.

  18. Thank you for your side of this story, for your insight, you really touched me.*drying tears now* Struggling with some non bio mom thoughts myself, surprised by the recognition of almost everything you mention despite the vast difference of my situation (I always wanted kids, have a male partner but no eggs, thinking about donor eggs. Although thinking has not gotten me pregnant yet)
    But my partner understood immediately that I would want to pass on my last name.

  19. Great post. Very touching and honest. Why don’t people talk about this stuff more? Please keep them coming.

    (Still very curious about the vagina, btw.)

  20. PS Gorgeous watercolor!

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